Monday, 31 January 2011

chocolate chip cookies

These biscuits are super chocolatey, chewy and crisp. They are simple to make, as long as you follow the recipe exactly or you may end up disappointed. So be precise and prepare to enjoy breaking into one of these lovely cookies while the chocolate is still melty. I like one with a demi-tasse of coffee.

Don’t substitute marg for the butter either, it just doesn’t work.

Set the oven to Gas Mark 4/350F/180C

Line several baking sheets with baking parchment.


125g butter
50g vanilla castor sugar
65g soft brown sugar
1 egg
vanilla essence
125g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
150g plain chocolate


Beat together the butter and the sugars, adding the vanilla essence.
Beat in the egg.
Add the flour and keep beating.

Add the chocolate pieces.

Use two teaspoons and drop spoonfuls of mixture onto the sheet, allowing plenty of room to spread.

Cook for around 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Makes around 30 biscuits.

Grilled chicken salad with cheese nachos

On a recent family outing we ate cheese nachos at a bar, with jalapenos, guacamole, and salsa. I fancied a lazy meal last night, and bought some low salt tortilla chips and got on with conjuring up my own version. For the hungry I swapped salsa for chicken and added shredded lettuce.

The result was tasty and tangy, and went well with some tv. The heat came mostly from the jalapenos, which also had a nice vinegary edge, that complimented the creaminess of the guacamole. The tang is balanced by the cooked capsicum. The colours were nice and lively for a cold winter’s evening, and would also work on a summer’s day or night, when you could do the chicken on a bbq.

The chicken needs marinading for about an hour.

The capsicum pepper is cooked over the flame of a gas cooker. I’ve never tried it on an electric cooker. I shall experiment with a dry frying pan and report back.

For the more lazy, buy the guacamole.

Quantities are for two people who like their food. The only straight carbs are the tortilla chips.


For the chicken salad
Two skinless chicken legs (thigh and drumstick) or equivalent
Two handfuls of chopped lettuce
Small jar jalapeno peppers
1 capsicum pepper

For the marinade
Juice of 1 orange or similar (about ½ mug)
2 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 crushed chopped clove garlic
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp of sugar
1 large pinch of salt
Generous grindings of black pepper

·        Mix everything together in a bowl large enough to hold the chicken.
·        Slash the flesh of the chicken.
·        Mix the chicken and the marinade, coating the chicken completely.
·        Leave to marinade for about an hour or at least as long as it takes to prepare the rest of the meal.

·        Char the skin of the pepper thoroughly over a gas ring, wrap in foil or baking parchment and set aside until cool.
·        Wash and dry the lettuce and shred finely, spread around a large plate.
·        Drain the jalapenos and scatter over the lettuce.
·        Scrape charred skin off the pepper and roughly chop the flesh (chucking seeds and stem away), sprinkle over lettuce and jalapenos.

·        Grill the marinaded chicken for 7 minutes a side.
·        Wrap in foil and allow to sit for at least five minutes
·        Take the cooked meat off the bone and slice into bite size chunks.
·        Put sliced cooked chicken into the middle of the plate of lettuce and peppers.

For the guacamole
2 ripe avocados
1 tomato
10 sprigs of coriander
½ an onion
1 mild chilli
Salt and pepper
Juice of ½ lime

·        Chop the tomato, onion, coriander and deseeded chilli as finely as possible with the pepper and salt – or blitz in a mini processor/bash about in a pestle and mortar.
·        Cut the avocados into small bits and mash the lot together with a fork.
·        Add the lime juice and stir – adjust seasoning to taste.

Cheesy nachos
1 pkt tortilla chips
Cheddar or similar

Set the oven to medium heat.

·        Get a large heatproof dish and put the tortilla chips on it.
·        Grate enough cheddar over the lot to give a thin covering.
·        Heat for 10 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.

Tuck in.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Cucumber salsa

I like a little salsa with almost everything. Especially in the winter. It's definitely part of my curry repertoire, it goes with grilled meat, omlette or baked potato. This is a simple one made with cucumber. Extra crunch comes from inclusion of the finely chopped coriander stem, something that is all too often just thrown away. I don't include garlic, because I usually eat it with something that has lots of garlic already in it. If you are eating it with something more plain, just add 1 clove of finely chopped garlic.

So this is a fresh and crunchy cucumber salsa.

Cucumber salsa


½ cucumber
½ onion
2 tbsp lime juice
½ tsp ground cumin
½ bunch fresh coriander
A pinch of each: chilli, pepper, salt
1 tsp sugar

  • Cut cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.
  • Slice and chop the cucumber into small bits.
  • Finely chop the onion.
  • Finely chop the coriander, including the stems.
  • Mix everything together in a bowl and let sit for 10 mins.


You can:
  • substitute lemon for lime
  • use sweet chilli sauce instead of chilli and sugar
  • add some fresh mint
  • use tomato as well, or instead of cucumber

Haggis Cottage Pie

I like haggis, it is a marvellous thing, but I only eat it once a year. So as Burns Night loomed I was trying to remember how to cook it, and remembering how filling it is. My sister Clare suggested I try her haggis pie recipe. It has the advantage of being prepared in advance, it's easier to serve than a whole haggis, and layering the swede haggis and mash gives the right quantity of each. Serving it with some sweet, lightly cooked cabbage means you don't need any gravy. The colours on the plate are fantastic.

Keeping the swede and potato separate means it isn't clapshot, which is made mashing the two together.

I should say that by swede I mean neep, the Scottish turnip.

The flavour and texture of the haggis is wonderful together with the soft and sweet swede and the creamy mash. A little carrot adds colour to the paler swede. It looks great on the plate, slightly reminiscent of 70s browns and oranges, but better. So good, in fact, that my Scottish pal Doug pronounced it genius. If you like having the cooked haggis roll around the plate until you pierce it and allow the contents to spill, for the drama as much as anything, don't make this pie.

This much left me with three slices to put in the freezer - after four people with healthy appetites ate their fill. I'm going to have them for a hearty breakfast, unhealthily fried, with an egg on top, sometime, with a side dish of mushrooms.


2 haggis (I used Macsween's)
8 medium potatoes
1 large swede
2 carrots
butter or margarine

  • Take the printed plastic cover off the haggis and wrap them in foil, bake for 1 hour at 360/180/gas mark4 
  • Peel the potatoes, cook well in salted water, drain and mash well with a hearty pinch of salt, good grindings of pepper, a knob of butter and a few glugs of milk. Don't make it too wet. 
  • Peel the swede and carrots, cut into 2cm cubes and cook in plenty of salted water until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, saving some of the liquid, about a cup. Mash thoroughly with some butter, a little salt and pepper, and add a little of the cooking liquid at a time.
  • Lightly butter a heatproof dish, about 25cm/10" in diameter - I used an oval dish. 
  • Slash open the cooked haggis and scoop out the filling into the buttered dish. Spread out a layer, about 2cm/1" thick. 
  • Spread a layer of swede and carrot mash over the haggis layer, about 2cm/1" thick.
  • Top with a similar layer of mash, and smoothing the top, then run a fork around it, to give lots of ridges to go crispy.

  • Cook for 30 minutes at 360/180/gas mark4, until the crust is golden.

Serve with lightly cooked buttered cabbage.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Burns night supper

We had a lovely Burns Night yesterday. The menu was

Orkney salmon and cream cheese blinis
Haggis cottage pie (here's the recipe) with spring cabbage
Whisky sour sorbet - based on lemon sherbert
Treacle tart and Mackies ice cream

Washed down with whisky

We all ate our fill, tartan was worn and the poem (part of it) was read. A good night.

easy chicken curry

On the way to a friend's house I decided I should whip up a lovely meal for the host. Slightly controlling behaviour, but needs must when visiting someone whose cooking always disappoints and at times may be a health hazard. I armed myself with two chicken legs, some steak mince, a lime, garlic, fresh ginger and a bunch of coriander. I was thinking night one: meatballs. Night two: chicken curry. The basics (onions, tomatoes, olive oil, yoghurt, curry powder, tomato puree) were in the pantry. All the prep could be done at once. 

The chicken is best marinaded overnight and cooks slowly. 

The chicken is tender and the flavours gentle. Very easy to eat. You could make the flavours more delicate by throwing in a couple of cardamom pods, and you could use one of the tandoori mixes to give it that violent red colour. Sometimes it's nice to keep things simple and go with ready mixed curry powder and have done. The garlic, ginger, coriander and lime mix is the key. Or you could use lemon.

This is enough for two people if eaten alone, would stretch if eaten with other dishes.


2 chicken legs
1" ginger
4 cloves garlic
1/2 bunch of coriander
1/2 pot of yoghurt
1 lime
3 tbsp tomato puree
pepper and salt

  • take the skin off the chicken
  • peel the garlic and ginger and chop finely
  • finely chop the coriander, including the stems
  • wash the lime, squeeze the juice
  • put the chicken in a heatproof bowl with the chopped garlic, coriander, lime juice and both halves of the squeezed lime and yoghurt
  • cover bowl with clingfilm and put into the fridge for 2-3 hours or overnight
heat the oven to 325/160/3

·        take the chicken out of the fridge and stir in the tomato paste
·        the sauce may separate, to avoid this add 1tsp of cornflour
·        cook for two hours, stirring occasionally

Eat. With rice or naan, and a small salad. 

I like to eat this with dry cooked ginger potatoes and/or dhal.

Friday, 21 January 2011

chocolate nusstorte

When I rehoused my cookery books, I found myself reading recipes for chocolate cake. I came across this recipe, which intrigued me. It has no flour, other than some crumbled biscuit, and no fat other than the chocolate and cream. It's called a nusstorte, but it's really a chocolate cake, made with nuts. It's actually very dark, and not chewy. The little bit of jam gives it a tang and somehow enhances the chocolate experience, without butting in too much. The covering is mousse like and contrasts well with the cake, and it's a pleasure to eat.

This cake has been reviewed by chocolate lovers and given a high score. It isn't one of those weighty slabs of chocolate cake, it's light, but rich. I like a thin slice with cream. Steve likes a big slice.

It's easy to make - I use the hand blender whisk attachment, two bowls (one for yolks and one for whites. I don't use the highest cocoa content chocolate, as I find it's overpowering and makes the cream mixture almost bitter, as well as so stiff that you have to add milk. You might like the bitter edge, if so, please go ahead, however do add the milk to get the lovely mousse-y consistency to cover the cake.



150g dark chocolate
450ml double cream
5 large eggs
175g castor sugar
150g walnuts
25g biscuit crumbs (approx two biscuits)
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp powdered instant coffee
a squeeze of lemon juice
2 heaped tbsp of cranberry jelly 
pinch of salt

Set the oven to Gas Mark 4/180C/350F


Butter and flour a 20cm/8" springform cake tin

If you haven't got a springform tin, line the base with baking parchment.

Break the chocolate into pieces and put it into a bowl with the cream and set over simmering water. Don't let the  bowl touch the water. Stir the cream and chocolate together until the chocolate is melted and they are well mixed and set aside to cool – then put mixture in the fridge.

You can prepare this the day before.


Grind the walnuts into flour.
Stir the cocoa, coffee and lemon juice into the ground walnuts.

Separate the eggs and yolks into two mixing bowls.

Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar, adding it gradually and whisking until the mixture thickens.
Fold nut mixture into egg yolks.
Whisk the egg whites (using clean whisk) with a pinch of salt, until they are stiff.
Fold egg whites into egg yolk and nut mixture.
Pour cake mixture into the prepared tin.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 45 minutes.
Let the cake sit in the tin for at least 5 minutes before turning it out, and letting it cool on a rack.

To finish the cake
Whip the cream and chocolate mixture, just like cream,

Cut the cooled cake into two.
Warm the jam or jelly and spread over the cut layers.
Spread some of the whipped chocolate and cream over the bottom layer and sandwich the two layers together.
Spread the rest of the chocolate and cream over the top and sides of the cake.


Saturday, 15 January 2011


There's no bread in the house this morning, so it's back to the pancakes. Kit loves pancakes and that's motivation enough, since she doesn't eat enough (I'm filling the gaps, sadly, all of them, add our sizes together and divide by two and all would be well in the wardrobe).

Kitty favours the Dairy Book of Home Cookery (1977) recipe for pancakes. It's a book my mother used to have, and I found copy in a charity shop. I think the mixture doesn't have enough egg, (100g flour/1 egg/250ml milk). In my Bases de recettes book the proportions are better (200g flour/2 eggs/250ml milk) and they add two spoonfuls of oil, and recommend letting the batter stand. I don't have time to let the batter stand, and my 1977 English oeuvre says 'modern science shows' there's no need. I'm not letting a forty year gap bother me, in defining what is modern.

My mixture works well. Give it a go. It makes about 12 pancakes, depending on the size of your pan.

Cooking pancakes can be a bit anti social, and hot. I like to make a pile and then reheat them.


ingredients (alternative measurements at bottom of the recipe - cups, oz and mugs)
125g flour
2 eggs
125ml milk
125ml water
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp sugar
pinch salt

oil for pan


  • sift flour into large bowl (I use a plastic jug and stir it with a whisk)
  • add sugar and salt
  • make a well in the middle, crack the eggs into it and add the oil
  • stir it all together vigorously
  • add liquid bit by bit, beating all the time until smooth (if it isn't smooth, resort to the hand blender)

I use a heavy based frying pan, which is not non-stick. I have a heatproof pastry brush and a little pot of oil, and I brush the pan between each pancake. I use a small ladle, which measures about 1/4 cup. I don't like non-stick, and I think the pancakes taste different if you pour the batter into a thin layer of hot oil.

It might seem obvious how to cook pancakes, and if you've got it down pat, ignore this. If you're like me, and sometimes end up with a thick layer of batter sticking to the pan then read on.

Heat the pan for a couple of minutes before starting the pancake cooking, and get the pan good and hot, then  brush with oil quickly and pour in the batter - just enough to coat the base of the pan. You'll know the pan is hot enough, because the batter starts to cook straight away, roll it around the pan to cover the whole base. Once the pancake starts to bubble a bit and the edges curl, it's ready to turn. Watch the pancake bubble a little bit, then remove it from the pan. And so on.

I turn the gas down a bit once the pan is hot, otherwise it gets too hot.

other stuff
if you don't have scales, or can't be bothered, about one mugful of flour and half/half mugful of milk/water is the right amount, adding a tiny bit more liquid. Providing it's an average mug, and I'm not debating what's average.

Friday, 14 January 2011

warming and cleansing soup

Feeling a bit leaden, cold ridden and not really hungry, with a stonking headache only receding when plied with paracetomol, I am avoiding milk. And eating when not hungry. So I reached midday today on mint tea alone, and as my appetite returned my thoughts turned to ginger. Fresh ginger. Very cleansing, very warming and very refreshing. I have to buy some more, as I used mine making this soup. I've just eaten it and my mouth is tingling happily.

Cooks in one pan.


1 large carrot
1/2 onion
1 leek
1" ginger
2 cloves garlic
1 egg
soy sauce
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp powdered vegetable stock
three mugs of water
1 nest of fine rice noodles

Put the water in a pan and bring to the boil.
Peel the carrot and slice thinly. I like to slice mine at an angle.
Slice the onion and leek.
Peel the ginger and garlic, and chop finely.
Add Veg stock to boiling water, followed by 1/2 carrot, onion and leek and 1/2 chopped ginger and garlic, cook for a minute.
Add everything else and cook for two minutes while you beat the egg together with a slosh of soy sauce and the chilli powder.
Pour egg mixture into boiling water with other ingredients, leave for a moment, then stir.

Eat. Mind your mouths it is hot.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

spinach, lentil and coconut soup

I like soup and I like cobbling things together from the cupboard (and freezer). I occasionally eat a ready made soup, but it never satisfies. I really liked this combination, it was filling and tasty, and great to dip chunks of bread into. The coconut I used was powdered, which lent a good texture, something to chew.

No exact measurements. Only one pot used and a stick blender.


1 onion
1 clove garlic
1/2 mug split red lentils
1 mug water
3 blocks frozen spinach
1tsp curry powder
1/4 mug powdered coconut
salt and pepper
2 tbsps oil

Roughly chop onion and garlic, and fry on low heat until onion is transparent
Add curry powder for a moment
Add lentils and stir, adding water and stir
Cook for 20 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally
Add frozen spinach and cook for 10 minutes, adding extra water if it gets dry
Add salt and pepper

Blend with stick blender until smooth.

Check the taste and adjust seasoning.


Brioche too

Brioche to me is a sticky breakfast cake-meets-bread concoction. Latterly its name has been sullied pappy 'brioche'rolls, which are just sweet yellow white bread that make bridge rolls seem attractive.

What I made wasn't what I call brioche either, so I shall try again. I used strong and ordinary plain flour with yeast and three eggs. It rose beautifully and smelled beautiful, almost spicy.

When it was cooked I had high hopes, and it was very tasty, but it wasn't brioche. So back to the marble pastry board.

In the French recipe book there are two approaches, one of which is called 'instant'. Maybe that's what I'm after. It doesn't use yeast. Hmmm. We shall see.

salad dressing - a lift on a winter's day

I had salad as usual yesterday, green leaves with the family dressing. Absolutely great on a grey day. The garlic is good for you and at the moment I seem to love anything that is that vibrant spring green, and lettuce hits the spot.

Try it.

salad dressing recipe

Tuesday, 11 January 2011


I'm going to try making brioche. Sweet and slightly claggy in the mouth. Yum. I'm looking at recipes in Toutes les bases et les recettes de la bonne cuisine and my breadmaker book. I may make it lemony. More follows.

Steve's avocado sandwich breakfast - healing food and hangover cure

Having listened to tales of Christmas woe, filled with fevers and flu, I was lulled into an unattractive state of smug, a vulnerable place to be. I woke up on Saturday with a sore throat, a headache and backache that made me wonder if I’d been sleep drinking. Painkillers helped a bit, but not enough to stop me feeling very sorry for myself, as I monitored my symptoms to see if I was in the running for the ‘most sick’ title. I am not an attractive invalid.

Fortunately, Steve delivered just what was needed: an open sandwich of avocado with a squeeze of lime, salt and pepper. His original recipe is for buttered toast with marmite and the lime etc on top. I didn’t fancy the marmite, so mine came without. I tried his with marmite and found it edible, much richer, almost chocolatey, and not what I wanted.

The vibrant green of the avocado is definitely a healing hue. Even with a limited sense of smell, and the inability to lift my head properly, the colour and smell of the lime made me feel cheerful and hungry. I ate mine much too quickly, and had another.

I would recommend an avocado per person. For the greedy. Especially the hungover and greedy, oh, and the ill.

Ripe avocado
Pepper and salt

Make a slice of toast and let it cool
Butter the toast and spread with slices of avocado.
Squeeze lime juice onto the avocado slices, add pepper and salt.


Monday, 10 January 2011

chocolate fridge cake

I made some of this over Christmas, in case we got peckish. Hahahahhahahahaha! It was delicious, if I say so myself. And I used salted butter, which I like. I'm not a purist about chocolate though. Oh and I used non wheat biscuits, made with almond flour, and I mixed up the nuts, so my version had almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts.

I made it chunky, which meant it was hard to cut, so remember a small and flat version will facilitate the eating. Not that you'll need any help.

I like it if the two chocolates aren't so mixed up. If you're feeling lazy, just use a few more biscuits and make the milk chocolate one with nuts already in it.



250g digestive biscuits
150g milk chocolate
150g dark chocolate
100g butter
big spoonful of golden syrup (or honey – makes it more sticky)
100g walnuts
50g hazelnuts


o    line an 20cm/8" cake tin or 2 margarine containers with greaseproof paper
o    break up digestive biscuits - I like to smash them in a plastic bag, to contain the crumbs
o    roughly chop the nuts
o    put broken biscuits and chopped nuts into the lined tin
o    melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water, with the butter and syrup
o    stir to combine, allow to cool a bit  and pour over the biscuit mixture
o    press in to make sure all the gaps are filled
o    leave to cool


Goes well with a stiff black coffee.

Remember not to pour hot mixture into a plastic container - you'll end up throwing it away, or eating plastic.

If you don't have greaseproof paper butter the tin or container liberally, refrigerate and when completely set it should pop out like an enormous chocolate ice cube, without the ice.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

cold and grey, it's a brownie day

There's a lot of debate about who makes the best brownies around here, and, I reckon it is me. Or Kit, now she's using my recipe. Some might say there is no way for me to know, since I am not the most chocolate focused person, preferring to spread my net wider, however I love these brownies. They have the chocolate intensity loved by many, as they are made with pure cocoa. They are good and chewy, and surely they must have less calories than their use-five-bars-of-chocolate cousin recipes.

Ideal with black coffee.

dry fried spicy potatoes

This recipe lets potatoes take centre stage. If you're going veggie it is a lovely main dish with a salad, and of course it can be a great side dish as well. The fried spices give a sweet and nutty warmth, and can give a quick pep to a simple meal.

My source recipe, by Madhur Jaffrey, suggests cooking the potatoes in their skins, leaving them to cool and then peeling them. Being inherently lazy, I like to peel them, cut them into cubes and cook them like that. If you follow MJ's instructions you get a lovely waxy skin, providing you use the right kind of potato. This version allows for all varieties.

Other than the potatoes the main ingredients are ginger and garlic.

Use a non-stick or heavy based frying pan.

1 lb potatoes
1" ginger
3 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp paprika or cayenne
several pinches of salt
5tbsp oil


Peel the potatoes and cut into 2cm cubes, boil in water for 5 minutes and drain.
Blend ginger, garlic, lemon juice, turmeric, cumin and paprika together with salt to make a paste.
Heat the oil on a medium flame, adding the spice paste and let it sizzle for a moment.
Add the cubed cooked potatoes and turn the heat up a little.
Stir the potatoes around, letting them get well browned on all sides.